We were deeply saddened to hear about the stabbing of a DC Metro bus driver who attempted to intervene in the harassment of several passengers earlier this week. Responding to complaints about a man who was masturbating on the bus, the driver asked the man to stop and respect the other passengers. The man then accosted the driver, initiating a fight that ended in the driver’s stabbing.
Bystander intervention is critical in the fight against public sexual harassment and assault. No one should have to deal with such insulting and threatening behavior on their way home, and we sincerely thank the Metro bus driver for protecting his passengers. It saddens us to hear that his brave actions led to injury.
We urge WMATA and our community to look toward addressing sexual harassment and assault on buses and metro cars as one answer to this kind of violence. While no official study of harassment and assault exists in the DC-area, over the last two years, Holla Back DC! has received 170 reports of public sexual harassment occurring on DC buses and trains. However, because public sexual harassment is underreported, we know these numbers are much higher. This means that public sexual harassment and assault are major problems on public transportation in the DC metro area.
WMATA is not the only transit system in the country facing this problem. In recent years Boston, Chicago, and New York City launched public service campaigns, undercover stings, and training for transit workers to work to prevent sexual harassment and assault on their subway and bus lines. It is time for Washington, DC, to follow suit. WMATA passengers and employees won’t be safe until we all recognize public sexual harassment and assault as a problem that needs to be solved, and then take the appropriate steps to combat it.
As an organization committed creating safer public spaces for everyone, we would love to see WMATA develop PSAs and employees trainings that address public sexual harassment and bystander intervention.